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US Navy Now Zapping Boats

by christian on April 12, 2011

The Navy and Northrop Grumman announced yesterday that for the first time a program that integrates solid state lasers on naval vessel had engaged another boat moving across the water.

I realize this was reported yesterday, but I wanted to get the discussion going here since Defense Tech has covered the development of the Boeing’s Advanced Tactical laser which fires a beam from an airborne C-130 and the Laser Avenger, an updated air defense Humvee which can engage UAVs, cruise missiles and other aerial targets.

Now we’ve got working prototypes of laser engagement systems on the ground, sea and air. It’s a complicated algorythm to aim and accurately fire a laser at a moving target that’s subjected to all the interference of an ocean environment — not just the movement, but sea spray and electrostatic activity just over the horizon.

Additionally, the Navy accomplished several other benchmarks, including integrating MLD with a ship’s radar and navigation system and firing an electric laser weapon from a moving platform at-sea in a humid environment. Other tests of solid state lasers for the Navy have been conducted from land-based positions.

Having access to a HEL weapon will one day provide warfighter with options when encountering a small-boat threat.

But while April’s MLD test proves the ability to use a scalable laser to thwart small vessels at range, the technology will not replace traditional weapon systems.

But as my colleague from DoD Buzz just said, if the services are unwilling to use the active denial system because they see it as a torture weapon, how will they ever use the weaponized version of a laser when people are aboard?

– Christian

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